American Airlines flight.
American Airlines flight.

What’s the Deal With American Airlines?

I live in Dallas, which is a hub for American Airlines. American often has the cheapest flights, but I'm a little nervous to book reservations with them, given all the bad press they've gotten lately. Should I be?

American Airlines flight.
Greg Melville

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It’s not easy being American Airlines right now—or an American Airlines passenger. On three separate occasions in the past month, seats on the air carrier’s Boeing 757s came unbolted from the floor. To remedy the situation, American canceled more than 90 flights in the first week of October to conduct inspections on 48 of its 757s for possible repairs. Fixing the problem was a simple one—it involved installing some new clamps—but rehabbing the airline’s image has been a bit harder.

Since its parent company filed for bankruptcy in November 2011, American has taken one PR hit after another. It’s been involved in on-again, off-again talks with U.S. Airways about a merger and gotten bogged down in negotiations with its pilots over a new contract.

Worst of all, American has suffered from a huge spike in flight delays and cancellations in the past couple of months, which the company reportedly blames on a work slowdown by the pilots. In the four weeks prior to October 8, there were 998 cancellations for American Airlines flights and 16,160 delays—more than for United, U.S. Airways, and Delta combined during that time, according to

So what does all of this mean to you, Allison? First, safety is no bigger of an issue on an American flight than with any other airline. The FAA holds all carriers in the United States to the same rigorous mechanical and maintenance standards, regardless of their financial status, and pilots aren’t going to fly planes that they feel are unsafe.

As for the delays, that’s another issue. Until there’s a contract resolution with the pilots, there’s a 50-50 shot that your flight on American won’t arrive on time, if you use statistics from late September and early October as your guide. So when your schedule is extremely rigid, you should weigh this factor heavily when deciding whether or not to go with the airline. If you can be flexible and the ticket price with American is right, I say roll the dice.

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